"In the continuing debate throughout the ... [West] on the present and
future health of the welfare state," wrote Hilary Barnes in a 1997 issue
of Scandinavian Review, "a hedge that has grown somewhat unruly
is being trimmed back into shape." But, he added, "no one has any idea
of uprooting the hedge." Among the Nordic countries, that observation
still holds. Despite shifts in foreign and domestic priorities since 9/11,
Nordic societies are still permeated by egalitarian ideas. Denmark, for
example, has tightened the qualifications for social welfare benefits.
But it is still a society where everyone can count on basic healthcare,
education, and assistance when in economic straits. In fact, a 2004 report
the Children" finds that — among 119 countries studied
by this group — Denmark ranks second (after Sweden) as a place where
mothers and children do best
the topic of welfare programs could hardly do better than research modern
Denmark, a strong democracy in which such programs and free-market capitalism
exist side-by-side. Denmark offers insights into other issues, too
into the way even a small nation can make environmental protection a national
priority, and into the many ways it can help to build peace in the post-9/11
world. This unit's Student Text Page —
together with the Denmark Map Page and
Denmark Data Page — should get your
students off to a good start on such research. The unit can also help
them strengthen their Reading Skills in the Social
Studies…. Most important: It will introduce them to a savvy,
energetic, and compassionate world neighbor.
In addition to being a research guide, "And Now.... Denmark" offers students
the opportunity to work on several skills, two of which are cited below.
The first is identified in Geography for Life: National Geography Standards
(1994), and the second appears in the National Standards for History
(revised 1996). Thus, this unit should help students to:
- "Evaluate how
humans interact with physical environments to form places.... [i.e.,]
explain how places are made distinctive and meaningful by human activities...."
"Places and Regions: 4-D," Grades 9-12
- "[Consider the
fact of] economic imbalances and social inequalities among ... peoples,
and assess efforts made to close these gaps." "Era 9: The 20th
Century Since 1945...." Standard 3, Grades 9-12
The term welfare state does not carry exactly the same overtones
within Europe as it does in the USA. You may want to discuss this term
with students before they examine the Student
Text Page, just to let them ventilate their assumptions about its
meaning. Then tell them that, while the term does not appear on the Student
Text Page, it is the topic of the second paragraph in the segment
"Faring, sharing." Ask them to reexamine their reactions to welfare
state after reading about the Danish experience. Other terms you may
wish to preview: constitutional monarchy, diplomacy, faring, gross
domestic product (GDP), parliament, per-capita income, self-sufficiency,
self-governing territory, service-based economy, strategic, UN peacekeeper,
FOUR BIG QUESTIONS
The questions at the top of the Student Text
Page are meant to encourage research not to limit it! Indeed,
students working independently may come across such additional, high-interest
topics as the evolving role of Greenland and the Faroe Islands within
the Danish kingdom (especially in this century), or the role that Denmark
itself plays in the important, but little-heralded, Arctic Council.
The four leading questions
are basic, however, and can be used as the focus for a class study unit
and discussion. Access to the Denmark Map Page
should be helpful when exploring the first question as would access
to the Denmark Data Page, when discussing
the second. Here’s some additional background on the questions:
what sense might a huge wind turbine symbolize Denmark's vision of the
future?" The global need for clean, renewable energy is such
a basic concept in our time, that student readers can be expected to bring
some understanding of that concept to their reading of the paragraph dealing
with Denmark's wind turbines. You may want to point out that Danish interest
in this quest is further sharpened by the country's signature of the Kyoto
Treaty and its membership in the European Union (which is committed to
sustainable economic development). But the Danes' involvement in wind
power actually goes back much farther than either Kyoto (1998) or the
formation of the EU (1993). In 1891, Poul La Cour, a Danish pioneer in
the field of aerodynamics, generated the first wind-powered electricity.
And Danes have been involved in that field ever since. Students interested
in a broad overview of such efforts might enjoy an online report taken
from the Greenpeace archives, "Denmark
Birthplace of Modern Wind Power". Those interested in
more technical (and fascinating) details about a wind farm's construction
can consult this report, available online: "Horns
Rev Offshore Wind Farm".
The constant challenge of responding to opportunities and constraints
within their environment has led the Danish people to develop skills in
other fields, too. You may want to have students consult the unit's Map
Page as they speculate on what some of those skills might be. Denmark's
peninsular shape, its relatively long coastline, and its position at the
entrance to the Baltic Sea would surely suggest a need for shipbuilders
before, during and after the Viking Era. And the country's many
islands (there are 406!) might hint at the need for bridges. In fact,
Danes have been networking their country with bridges for more than a
thousand years. Capping that long history, the Øresund Bridge —
linking Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden since 1999 — has
the distinction of being the first direct road-and-rail route, ever,
between Western Europe and neighboring countries across the Baltic Sea.
the key to Denmark's economic success?" Students may address this
question on several levels. As the opening paragraph of "Faring, sharing"
makes clear, Danes have few natural resources: good soil, schools of fish,
some timber, petroleum.... And, as the preceding segment suggests, Denmark
used and uses its geographic location to foster trade, most
recently becoming a destination of choice for global traders dealing with
the Baltic area. It's a mark of its success in this effort that Denmark
ranks tenth, worldwide, in per-capita share of national import-export
trade (2003). No surprise, either, that the world's largest provider of
deep-freeze compartments and other specialized containers for hauling
maritime goods is Maersk Sealand a privately owned shipping company
But with a little
digging into Denmark's history, students will find that a movement to
form farm cooperatives in the late 19th century also played a key role
in the development of the nation's modern-day economy. (See, for example,
the article on "Denmark" in the Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia.). Cooperatives
were a first step in helping Danish dairy farmers form an efficient, competitive
industry. And that step led to increased research on related endeavors:
the development of improved machinery for food processing, packaging,
refrigeration, and transport. Today, the fastest-growing sectors in Danish
industry biotechnology, information technology, environmental protection,
and energy conservation are indebted to the Danes' skills in cutting-edge
do traditional values influence its policies?" On the Student
Text Page, the second paragraph under "Faring, sharing" and the segment
on "Reaching out" propose that Danish policies toward needy citizens
and countries reflect a carry-over from a cultural "belief cherished
by their ancestors." In Løgstrup's words, this belief is that "we ...
hold part of each other's destiny in our hands." In a general sense, such
values can have many points of origin: religious teachings (84 percent
of Danes are Lutherans), ancient myths, cultural customs, etc. So, when
starting to discuss Question 3, you might suggest that students reflect
on how such a belief might have taken hold among Danish seafarers and
farmers in isolated villages, centuries ago. Then ask to what degree Denmark's
modern welfare and/or foreign-aid policies may represent
the same value.
Students in government courses who look at welfare legislation as part
of a national system may be interested in researching four types of "welfare
models": (1) Under the classical "Scandinavian model,"
comprehensive benefits in the fields of health, education, employment,
and retirement are generous — and the same for everyone. (2) The
UK's "Beveridge model" was also a "cradle-to-grave"
program when it began, though its focus was primarily on the neediest
members of society. (3) The "Bismarck model,"
named for Germany's renowned 19th-century chancellor, introduced the concept
of compulsory social insurance for non-professional ("blue-collar")
laborers. And (4) the so-called "subsidiarity model"
— frequently advanced as a model for our time — identifies
the family itself as being responsible for contributing to its own "social
insurance." Prompt students to search for examples of each model
among nations today!
role does Denmark play in today's world?" Beyond its role as generous
donor of foreign aid, Denmark is clearly focused on improving trade and
political relations within the Baltic region (see the "Reaching out" segment).
It is also an active team player in multinational organizations that developed
among European nations after World War II NATO and the EU, for
example. Student researchers will learn that Denmark took an active role
in NATO operations during the conflict in Kosovo, and that — despite
suffering casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq — it has stood with
the USA in the fight against terrorism. They'll find also that Denmark
was among the first of the EU's 15 members to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty
(effective as of May 1999) a treaty that focuses on such "people"
issues as employment, the environment, and consumer protection.
Danes have been divided,
however, over whether to exchange their Danish Krone for the EU's new
currency, the euro. As recently as September 2000, they voted not to do
so. Thus, even though highly qualified (by economic and fiscal criteria)
to adopt the euro, Denmark remains one of three EU members maintaining
their sovereign currencies. For an excellent and detailed overview of
Danish foreign policy vis-à-vis the EU, NATO, and especially the
USA, see the following June 2004 address by Ulrik A. Federspiel, Denmark's
Ambassador to the United States: "Transatlantic
Cooperation in the 21st Century: A Perspective from a Small European Country."
Not only does this document provide a clear articulation of the values,
principles, and goals to which the Danish government is committed. It
also offers a rare insight into the self-perception of a small, vigorous
society as it faces the real challenges of the 21st century.
STUDIES READING SKILLS
Realizing that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will
exert a mounting pressure on social studies teachers to emphasize reading
skills with secondary school students, LE offers the following tip for
use with this unit (see also LE's Page on Reading
Skills in the Social Studies):
statements of fact from statements of opinion. What's a "fact"?
Most dictionaries suggest that the term applies to anything whose
existence can be proven or demonstrated. An "opinion"? Anyone's
viewpoint or judgment on a still open (debatable) issue. Thus: The
revolution of Earth around the Sun is a fact. But: Suggesting how
much Nation Y should spend on solar power would be an expression of
opinion. Students need to learn how to distinguish between both types
of statement. And one way to do so would be to focus on the types
of phrasing people use when articulating opinions. Here are 10 statements,
based on this unit's text page. Ask students to use the contents of
that page as a basis for deciding whether each item expresses a fact
or an opinion. In the latter case, you might ask them to explain their
answers (answers in italics):
Denmark derives some of its electric power from energy produced by
wind turbines. (Fact)
2. While they're still self-sufficient in energy,
the Danish people should strive for an energy supply that is 100-percent
clean and renewable. (Opinion. The term "should" is
often a sign that a given statement expresses an opinion.)
3. Viking voyagers were among the ancestors of today's
Danish population. (Fact)
4. Members of the Danish parliament are chosen by
the country's voters. (Fact)
5. Danish exports equal more than one third of the
country's gross domestic product (GDP). (Fact)
6. Denmark exports more goods than it imports; thus,
its balance of trade is favorable. (Fact. Note: While the term
"favorable" sounds like an expression of opinion, it is
actually part of an economic term "favorable balance of
7. Denmark's welfare benefits are better than those
available in the USA. (Opinion. The clue is in the term "better
than," which is usually an expression of personal judgment
unless, perhaps, when coupled with a comparison of statistical data.)
8. It's a fact: The tax rate borne by Denmark's people
is too heavy. (Opinion. The use of the term "too" is
a tip-off, and even the term "heavy" refers to the way people
might feel about the tax, not to its actual cost-benefits "weight.")
9. K.E. Løgstrup's ideas about the Danish
people's responsibility to one another may sound good, but a nation
in today's world needs more than just a good philosophy. (Opinion.
Here, the tone and structure of the entire statement are clues. The
expressions "may sound good" and "just a good philosophy"
are judgmental and dismissive. And the device of contrasting the two
concepts "ideas about our responsibility" vis-à-vis
the demands on "a nation in today's world" suggests
that the statement was structured to diminish the value of philosophic
10. When its donations are considered on a per-capita
basis, Denmark turns out to be world leader in providing assistance
to needy nations. (Fact)
In May, 2000, visitors to Washington, DC found an exciting new exhibition
at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History — "Vikings:
The North Atlantic Saga." Shortly after, the exhibition began a tour
of major cities. The actual tour has ended. But you and students can still
enjoy a "virtual tour" of the exhibition at the Web Site of
For policy statements,
weekly news, and scenic photos from Denmark, your best bet is to visit
the Web Site of the Royal Danish Embassy
in Washington, DC. (See especially the link labeled "About Denmark.")….
Another "best bet": the Site for The
Copenhagen Post, where you and/or students can check the latest
news on Denmark. And to see how that news is reported in your own area's
newspapers, check the listing of state and city publications at USA
A few other recommendations:
Barnes, Hilary. "The
Trimming of the Nordic Welfare State." Scandinavian Review. Spring/Summer
Encarta® Encyclopedia. Current edition.
World Factbook 2004.
"Civilized Denmark." National Geographic. July 1998.
Loose, Cindy. "Safe
Harbor in Copenhagen
." The Los Angeles Times. December
2, 2001. Page L6.
"Denmark: Lessons for American Principals and Teachers?" Phi
Delta Kappan. February 2003. Page 460. A fascinating look into another
kind of school system!
"Three 'Opt-Outs' on Euro
." Wall Street Journal.
January 11, 2002. Page A8.
Sachs, Jeffrey D.
"The Best Countries in the World." Newsweek. July 26,
2004. P28. (Denmark and its Nordic neighbors!)
United Nations. "Millennium
Development Goals". A chart of the goals mentioned in the "Reaching
out" segment of the text page for this unit. Terrific food for thought!
U.S. Department of
Note: Denmark.". April 2004.
U.S. News & World
Report. "The year 1000: What Life Was Like in the Last Millennium."
Special Summer Issue, August 26-23, 1999. See Pages 37-39 and 79 for references
to Danes, though the entire report is invaluable background on the era
in which Denmark's kingdom was formed.
Student Text Page | Denmark Map Page
| Denmark Data Page
you like to see other pages in this study unit?
Or visit LE's Home Page?
LE wishes to thank the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington,
DC, for underwriting the costs of developing this unit and making it available
to our electronic audience! We hope that the unit meets LE's goal of serving
the needs of teachers and students in Grades 7-12.
© Learning Enrichment, Inc.
Content last updated: August 2004. Page last reviewed: August 2004.